Despite camera ISO range improvements and electronic flash diffusion innovations, a fast lens is still a joy to employ in a dimly lit room. Shooting a reception for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble after its concert at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theater was mostly a “run-and-gun” scenario, grabbing flash shots as quickly as possible during a meet-and-greet. Even when attendees posed for photos, they posed very briefly, because Yo-Yo Ma is a friendly and gregarious man who loves chatting with his friends and fans. His energy is contagious.
I’ve been experimenting with flash diffusers in this venue for months, and have yet to find the quality of light or portability I need, what with the high, colorful ceilings, reflective surfaces, and tight crowds. The flash images in this post were made with a Sto-Fen Omni Bounce on an SB-800 speedlight. Sometimes I use a Gary Fong Lightsphere, but the size of this crowd in tight quarters pushed me toward the smaller Omni Bounce. I got pretty good flash pictures that look like pretty good flash pictures. For a guy who loves studio lighting, on-camera flash is a painful compromise, so I keep experimenting.
After the list of key shots was completed, I followed Yo-Yo Ma around the dimly lit room while he chatted up the attendees. I was tired of firing a flash at his face (and I suspect he was tired of that too), so I turned to my backup camera, a D7100 with an 85mm f/1.4 lens. And I made my favorite images of the evening. As a studio lighting enthusiast, I continue to marvel at how this lens helps me rediscover available light photography.
PS: UCSB Arts & Lectures brings the world’s greatest talent to Santa Barbara. I love them.